HC Deb 18 May 1960 vol 623 cc1421-2

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Redhead

This is another expression of the Chancellor's great personal reforming zeal, for again he forecast this Clause in words that gave us great hope. He said: Next in the field of Customs and Excise, I propose the abolition, root and branch, of a duty which is hallowed by 249 years' existence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th April, 1960; Vol. 621, c. 52.] Then when he led us on to the question of the remission of the duty on playing cards our high hopes were disappointed. I hope that the Chancellor's reforming zeal, having started so modestly in this respect, will go on to even greater things in subsequent endeavours.

It is true that this is a very ancient duty, and quite justifiably, I think, the opportunity is being taken to clear up something for which there is no longer any justification, particularly as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out that playing cards are chargeable for Purchase Tax at 25 per cent., although that has been the position for quite a long time and I should have thought that the opportunity might have been taken earlier to remove this rather outdated and, in fact, not particularly remunerative duty.

In those circumstances, unless any of my hon. Friends feel very keenly about the matter in their anxiety concerning the closing words of the Chancellor, that he hoped this would "not lead to any untoward dissipation", I would recommend my hon. Friends to agree to the Clause standing part of the Bill.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)

I wish to ask the Economic Secretary one question. For 249 years the ace of spades has had a special marking, and I would be very sorry indeed to see that marking disappear. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman could tell the Committee whether it would be in order for manufacturers producing playing cards in the future to continue, for historic reasons, to assert on the ace of spades that a 3d. Excise Duty has been paid.

We in this country hate making changes. We keep the Monarchy long after its political powers have been taken away from it and we keep the Second Chamber long after its powers have been clipped. I would not like to see the ace of spades become an ordinary playing card after so many years. If the Economic Secretary could allow the practice to continue of marking the card in this way, I think it would be in the highest traditions of the British Constitution.

Mr. Barber

I think it would be proper if I said with all the solemnity at my command that I will bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Second Schedule agreed to.